Saturday, September 19, 2009

Rajshahi 'landless' builds 2-storey house!

Saturday, September 19, 2009
Wealthy leader took lease of govt plot meant for landless

An Awami League leader of Bagmara, who possesses two small industries and ancestral property, managed to get lease of a piece of government land (Khas land), depriving the genuine landless people.

Abdur Razzak, AL general secretary of Goalkandi union, obtained lease of a five-decimal plot of land for 99 years claiming himself landless and now constructing a two-storey building on it flouting the lease contract.

Locals said Razzak has long been trying to grab the land by living in a temporary house there. After Awami League came to power, he applied for a lease of the land.

The district administration approved his prayer last May following recommendations of the Upazila Committee for leasing khas lands, headed by the Upazila Nirbahi Officer (UNO).

At one corner of the land, bicycle mechanic Govinda runs his workshop. But he has lately been under tremendous pressure to leave the place.

He alleged that Razzak had threatened to pull down his shop if he did not pay him Tk 50,000.

"How come they [authorities] allot government land to the rich when we are the real landless people," said Govinda, who has long been running the repair shop in a tin-shed facility there.

Razzak inherits five bighas of land of his family and owns Mollah Food and Oil Ltd, an oilseed grinding mill and co-owns Padma Agro and Fisheries Ltd, a fish feed factory. He also owns a motorised local vehicle.

Asked, Abdur Razzak said, "My father posses some land, not me. I am a genuine landless man and the chairman of the Upazila Bittoheen (have-nots) Samity."

He, however, admits owning industries, but denied the allegation of demanding toll from the bicycle repairman.

Asked how such an affluent person got lease of khas land meant for the landless, Bagmara Assistant Commissioner (AC) of land Abdur Rahim said Razzak must have hidden facts in his application.

The authorities leased out lands to a total of 23 landless persons.

The union council chairman first recommended Razzak and then his application was forwarded by the upazila committee, said the AC land who is also the member secretary of the body.

Bagmara UNO SM Nazim Uddin said, "The lease was approved prior to my joining here. We are investigating the matter to see if any irregularities occurred during sanctioning of the lands."

Contacted, Goalkandi Union Council Chairman Alamgir Hossain said he recommended Razzak, as the later does not have any land of his own. Hossain, however, remained silent when asked about Razzak's financial standing.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Rajshahi Zoo otter electrocuted

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

An otter (udbiral) was electrocuted inside its cage at Rajshahi Central Zoo yesterday due to alleged negligence of the zoo authorities.

The 13-year-old male otter died instantly as it came in touch with a falling power-line. Its body was taken out from the cage an hour later, zoo sources said.

"The loosened electrical line fell over the cage at around 9:30am when crows sat on the line, and the otter was trying to chew it," said Farhad Uddin, veterinary surgeon of Rajshahi City Corporation (RCC) that operates the zoo.

M Sadekul Islam, an RCC official and in-charge of the zoo, acknowledged that RCC's electricity department is responsible for the incident as they draw line from the main source without any concern for the safety of animals as well as visitors.

The otter was buried behind the zoo control room at 12:00noon after its autopsy, he said.

The female partner of the otter perhaps could not recover from the shock of this tragic incident and stopped showing its acrobatic movement that used to amuse the visitors.

It was observed that electrical lines are drawn through tree branches, and at some places it remains as loose as within the visitors' reach.

Zoo sources said, "Even a gentle wind can blow the wires down."

The snapped electric wire was repaired later but kept at the same place over the cage with possibilities for further accidents.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

"Jitia Parbon": A tradition retained by Mahalis over thousands of years

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Over a thousand members of the indigenous Mahali community observed Jitia Parbon (a Mahali festival) at Baganpara village under Godagari upazila last Saturday amidst much fanfare.

Mahali children, women, and men from some 18 villages of Rajshahi, Naogaon and Chapainwabganj participated in the daylong festival that started from midnight.

The remote Baganpara village reverberated with life as groups of Mahalis danced with the beats of dhol, madol and other traditional instruments.

The festival formally started with a prayer for the well being of the country.

Although the festival is considered to be the biggest social event of the Mahali community, it was not observed for about half a century until the celebration resumed last year.

"Mahalis withdrew from celebrating the festival since many of them converted to Christianity. But now, we find our existence as Mahalis is at stake and this festival is part of our identity," said Zakaria Dumri, executive director of Mahali Adibashi Artho Samajik Unnayan Sangstha (MAASAUS).

Dumri stated that the community stopped celebrating Jitia Parbon as Christianity does not support it. The festival requires a strictly vegetarian diet and includes prayers, singing, dancing and distribution of cakes.

"The history of the parbon goes back over thousands of years," said Zakaria, who has researched on the origins of the Mahalis.

There was a Mahali leader called Jit Bahan Thakur, who was born of a virgin mother. Jit rescued the Mahalis from the evils of superstitions, subjugation and injustice. In honour of Jit, the Mahalis have been observing Jitia Parbon since then.

"Dal, bhat, jhijang torokari/ Jitia Parobo bhari/ Kumra, kodu, alu, shosha/ Sobi miley eki ghati" is the song rendered with dances throughout the festival.

Mahalis fast for three days prior to the festival and exchange gifts with each other.

MAASAUS, in association with the social organisation Dighor Baisi, arranged the festival. Manusher Jonno Foundation and Oxfam GB also assisted in organising the festival.

Islam O Muslim: Charges pressed against 6 militants

Monday, September 14, 2009 
Police yesterday pressed charges against six militants including two top leaders of Islam O Muslim, the new JMB offshoot, revealing that they were raising the secret outfit and accumulating small weaponry from India to kill opponents of JMB.

Police submitted the charge sheet to the third court of judicial magistrate against the accused Abdur Rahim alias Shahadat, 32, chief of Islam O Muslim, and former JMB's Rajshahi regional commander, and Selim alias Saifullah alias Harun Mistri, 26, chief military commander and mastermind of the outfit, former JMB's military commander Abdul Momin and Abdur Rakib alias Sumon, 28, of Chapainwabganj, Jalal Uddin alias Sagor, 38, of Naogaon and Hafez Sajedur Rahman alias Hanif of Bagmara.

Sub-Inspector Babul Akhtar of Bagmara Police Station has been investigating the affairs of Islam O Muslim for the last three months and charged them under sections 8, 9 and 10 of Anti-terrorism Ordinance 2008.

According to the charges, Selim and his brother-in-law Rafikul alias Jahangir were involved with JMB as they both were the disciples of executed JMB leader Siddikul Islam Bangla Bhai.

Rofikul maintained a JMB fund of Tk 1.70 lakh following the execution of its chief Shaikh Abdur Rahman, Bangla Bhai and five other top men.

Knowing it, Selim took the money from his sister (Rofikul's wife) and fled away.

Later, JMB's new commander of Rajshahi division Ashraf asked Selim to give back the money.

As he denied, the JMB men threatened him and his cohorts to kill at sight.

Then in March this year, Selim held two meetings with some 10 to 15 JMB men who also fled with JMB money and were on the run over threats on their lives.

Shahadat, Momin and other accused took part in the meetings at Gomostapur and Kansat in Chapainwabganj and they decided to run the new offshoot to counter the JMB threats.

At the meetings, Jalal and Sajedur were given the responsibility for organising the new offshoot at Bagmara upazila, says the charge sheet.

They decided to shift on small weaponry instead of bombs and grenades with an aim to reactivate and reorganise the inactive JMB men.

A special anti-militancy police team from Dhaka arrested four JMB militants including Momin and Sumon from Chapainwabganj in June.

Following their confessions, police and Rapid Action Battalion members arrested Shahadat, Selim and others from Gazipur, Rajshahi and Chapainawabganj in early July.

The law enforcement agencies also claimed that they were able to nip a 'dangerous outfit' in the bud as they retrieved a total 14 small arms and huge bullets from the arrestees.

Selim bought these small arms from India with the looted JMB fund and distributed those among the offshoot leaders.

A total of seven cases were lodged against them with Shibganj, Bholahat, Chapainawabganj sadar and Bagmara Police Stations.

With yesterday's charge sheet, the investigation into the affairs of Islam O Muslim came to an end, said sources.